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EU Strategy on Safety and Health at Work

EU Strategy

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The European Community Strategy for Health and Safety at Work (2007-2012) aims at cutting by a quarter work related accidents across the EU.


The Strategy launched by the European Comission aims to pursue the positive trends of the previous Community Strategy 2002-2006. Over the period 2002-2004, the rate of fatal accidents at work in the EU-15 fell by 17% while the rate of workplace accidents leading to absences of more than three days fell by 20%.
As promoted in the previous Community strategy evaluation, a particular emphasis is placed on partnership at European and national levels to achieve good results in safety and health.

Main challenges concerning health and safety at work

In spite of the progress achieved, the results of the fifth European survey of working conditions showed that many workers in Europe continue to perceive that their jobs pose a threat to their health or safety:

  • almost 24% of workers in Europe feel that their health and safety is at risk because of their work;
  • European workers remain as exposed to physical hazards as 33% of workers carry heavy loads at least a quarter of their working time, while 23% are exposed to vibrations – figures unchanged since 2000. Nor are physical hazards confined to manual workers: nearly half of all workers (46%) work min tiring or painful positions at least a quarter of the time.

Work also presents other types of hazards. The working environment may be noisy, too hot or cold, or contain materials that are pathogenic (that can result in illness).

  • In 2010, nearly 30% of workers in the EU27 were exposed to loud noise for at least a quarter of their working time, a figure unchanged since 2000.
  • Meanwhile, 15% either breathe in smoke, fumes, or dust, or handle dangerous chemicals – again, the same proportion as 10 years previously.
  • A greater proportion of the workforce handled infectious materials in 2010 than did so in 2005 (11% and 9% respectively).
  • And in 2010, 23% of workers in the countries of the EU15 were exposed to low temperatures, the same proportion as in 1995.

Objectives of the Community strategy 2007-2012

The European Commission has set itself an ambitious overall objective: to reduce by 25% the total incidence rate of accidents at work per 100 000 workers in the EU 27 for the period 2007-2012.

In order to achieve this goal, the following main instruments are proposed:

  1. guarantee the proper implementation of EU legislation;
  2. support SMEs in the implementation of the legislation in force;
  3. adapt the legal framework to changes in the workplace and simplify it, particularly in view of SMEs;
  4. promote the development and implementation of national strategies;
  5. encourage changes in the behaviour of workers and encourage their employers to adopt health-focused approaches;
  6. finalise the methods for identifying and evaluating new potential risks;
  7. improve the tracking of progress;
  8. promote health and safety at international level.


More about the new OSH Strategy

European Parliament:
Report on the mid-term review of the European strategy 2007-2012 on health and safety

European Commission:
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions

European Council:
Council resolution of 25 June 2007: OJ C 145/1 30.06.2007

European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC):
Comments on the new Community OSH Strategy


The role of the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work

As part of the community tools in the field of safety and health at work, the Agency remains a key player within this European strategy. In particular, the Commission has called upon the Agency to carry out the followings actions:

  • ensure that its activities raise awareness and promote and disseminate best practice, focus to a greater degree on high-risk sectors. Learn more.
  • draw up, through its European Risk Observatory, a report examining the specific challenges in terms of health and safety posed by the more extensive integration of women, immigrant workers and younger and older workers into the labour market. It will help to pinpoint and monitor trends and new risks and identify measures which are essential

Learn more about the European Risk Observatory

  • review the extent to which health and safety aspects have been incorporated into Member States' vocational and occupational training policies. On the basis of this information and the opinion of the Advisory Committee on Safety, Hygiene and Health Protection at Work, the Commission will consider whether or not to present a proposal for a recommendation.

Learn more about how to integrate OSH into education.

  • collect and disseminate information intended to support the development of occupational health promotion campaigns, in combination with the strategy and Community public health programmes.

Learn more about our campaigns.

  • develop sectoral awareness-raising campaigns targeted in particular at SMEs, and to promote the management of health and safety at work in enterprises through the exchange of experience and good practices aimed at specific sectors
  • encourage national health and safety research institutes to set joint priorities, exchange results and include occupational health and safety requirements in research programmes

Learn more about our work to encourage the setting of joint priorities and the co-ordination of OSH research.